L- Glutamine – A Conditionally Essential Amino Acid

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The general classification of amino acids is broken down into three categories. Essential amino acids are called essential because the body isn’t able to produce them, so they have to come from foods.


Unessential amino acids are, in fact, needed by the body as well, but the body can manufacture them if all essential amino acids are present in sufficient amounts. A conditionally essential amino acid is one that the body may need more of when certain circumstances arise.

For example, glutamine is synthesized in the body from glutamic acid but sometimes the body needs more than it can manufacture. This occurs when tissue breakdown is sped up due to injury, infection, decreased appetite or starvation, and surgery.


Normally, glutamine is released as needed. The gastrointestinal tract is the site where glutamine is absorbed and used as fuel for certain cells. A compromise in GI tract function is what prompts many veterinarians to advise supplementation with L-Glutamine. This supplementation enhances proper gut immune function, decreases bacterial adhesion to some cells, and also decreases bacterial movement across the gut wall. Studies show that L-Glutamine supplementation increases the small bowel mucosal thickness, preserves the integrity, and even the height of villi ( finger-like projections on the surface of the small intestine that help absorb nutrients).


In addition, animals that go through endurance training have an increased state of tissue breakdown (catabolism), so they tend to benefit from L-Glutamine. Some dog owners report that their dog’s arthritis has been helped by L-Glutamine supplementation. Others provide anecdotal evidence that it helps dogs with liver problems.


L-Glutamine is a component of cells that are plentiful in the epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It can help conserve muscle glycogen stores, support the health of nerve cells, and cross the blood-brain barrier where the brain uses it for fuel.